For the past few months, Britney Spears has withdrawn from the spotlight to focus on her mental health. She first made headlines in January when she unexpectedly cancelled her upcoming Las Vegas residency, “Domination,” to focus on her emotional well-being, which reportedly took a turn for the worse after her father, Jamie, became ill. In April, the star then entered a mental health facility, writing on Instagram that she needed to take “a little me time,” and that “all is well.” Now, new details have emerged about the status of her health—and it’s looking more serious than previously imagined.
Today, Spears’s longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, who has managed her off and on since 1999, gave TMZ an interview about the situation. “As the person who guides her career—based on the information I and all of the professionals who work with her are being told on a need-to-know basis—from what I have gathered it’s clear to me she should not be going back to do this Vegas residency, not in the near future and possibly never again,” he said. It was a dramatic claim: that the pop icon is in such poor health that she may never get on stage again. (Her last tour, “Piece of Me,” ended in October.)
If that wasn’t enough, there’s another storyline unfolding around Spears: the endless saga of her conservatorship. Since 2008, following her much-documented “breakdown” including that head-shaving incident, her father has acted as her legal conservator, which gives him nearly full control of all her business, financial, and personal affairs. Earlier this month, Spears appeared in court to ask a judge to loosen the confines of that conservatorship, aiming to ease restrictions that prevent her from making decisions about her own life. (Up until recently, she couldn’t even drive a car.) And while the judge is currently looking into it with an investigation, her fans have already reacted strongly—they’ve ignited the #FreeBritney movement on social media, many of them hypothesizing that Spears is being controlled by both her father and her team. (Spears’s mother, Lynne, has even “liked” some of these posts, adding more fuel to the fire.)
So, what’s one to make of all of this? Can the troubled pop star—who has risen from the ashes before, notably when she won three VMAs in 2008 following her disastrous “Gimme More” performance at the awards show the year before—bounce back once again? And even if she does, will she want to come running back to an industry that enjoyed tearing her down in the first place?
While Spears has yet to speak out directly about these latest developments (some fans even claim her most recent social posts were from members of her team, not Spears herself), her possible decision to retire doesn’t come as a complete shock. Spears has never seemed to be fully on board with the idea of fame: The girl from McComb, Mississippi, became one of the world’s biggest and most provocative pop stars, yet her dual personalities have long seemed at odds with each other. Spears herself has even called her onstage persona an “alter ego,” telling the Associated Press, “I think it’s an escape, because honestly with how shy I really am, I don’t think it’s healthy. . . Something clicks and I go and turn into this different person.”